Spain's Must-See Sights and Attractions - City by City

  • 01 of 19

    If You Could Only See ONE Thing in Each City in Spain...

    Seville Cathedral
    ••• Seville Cathedral. Damian Corrigan

    If you only had a few hours in each city in Spain, where should you head to? With only a short stopover when you're on the way somewhere else, what's the single must-see sight there?

    Here you'll find the sight that sets each of Spain's cities apart from all the others. Most cities have many, many more sights than these few, but with this list you'll never be in any doubt about what makes a particular city so famous.

    First up, the Spanish capital: Madrid's Must-See Sight...

    See also:

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  • 02 of 19

    What's Madrid's Must-See Sight?

    Spain, Madrid, Paseo del Prado Area, Museo del Prado museum
    ••• Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Madrid? 

    The Golden Triangle of Art Museums

    Why?

    The Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are three of the best art museums in Europe, just a few steps apart in a small triangle close to Atocha train station. 

    The Prado is Madrid's Louvre, with a phenomenal number of classical Spanish paintings and sculptures. The Reina Sofia is Spain's premier modern art museum, with Picasso's Guernica as the biggest draw. The Thyssen-Bornemisza has one of the best private art collections in the world.

    If you have even a passing interest in art, these museums are a must for any visitor to Madrid. And as they are close to both the Atocha train station and the airport bus so you could visit one in a short stopover or when changing trains. Alternatively, see two of them on this  Combined Tour of the Prado and the Reina Sofia (this tour includes early-morning private entry to the Prado before it opens to the public ).

    See also:

    How to Plan a Spain Trip from Madrid

    Madrid has the most international flights and the best transport network in the country, making it the ideal place to start your vacation. Check out this link on How to Plan Your Trip to Spain from Madrid for advice on how best to make your travel arrangements to Madrid.

    Honorable Mentions: Madrid's fantastic day trips. Segovia, Toledo, Avila, the Valle de los Caidos are all musts. Read about Day Trips from Madrid.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Everything is easy to reach from Madrid.  Apart from the aforementioned day trips, there's also the high-speed AVE train to Cordoba, Seville, Barcelona, Cuenca and Valencia. 

    See also: How to Visit Madrid and Barcelona on One Short Break

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  • 03 of 19

    What's Barcelona's Must-See Sight?

    Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
    ••• Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Damian Corrigan

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Barcelona?

    La Sagrada Familia 

    Why? 

    Love or loathe it, you have to see Gaudi's famous unfinished basilica to judge for yourself. It's one of the most extravagant buildings ever created and divides opinion like few other structures on earth. 

    Be sure to walk all the way around the Sagrada Familia - one facade shows the Passion of Christ, the other shows the nativity scene. The architectural style on each facade is quite different.

    See also:

    Honorable Mentions: Barcelona has modernist architecture throughout the city, many by Gaudi but many more by other famous Catalan architects. And there's also the day trips to the Dali Museum in Figueres and Montserrat. Read more about Barcelona Day Trips

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Figueres and Madrid are both...MORE on the high-speed AVE train from here. There are also good train connections to Valencia. 

    See also: How to Visit Madrid and Barcelona on One Short Break

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  • 04 of 19

    What's Seville's Must-See Sight?

    Restaurant & Tapas Bar, Seville, Andalucia, Spain
    ••• Peter Adams / Getty Images

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Seville? 

    Barrio Santa Cruz

    Why? 

    Seville is split up into several famous barrios (neighborhoods) but the most famous is Barrio Santa Cruz. The architecture is the most classically 'Spanish', the restaurants are fantastic and there is a good chance you'll come across some flamenco too.

    See also:

    Honorable Mentions: The cathedral, with its Arabic Giralda tower, the fantastic tapas bars, bullfighting and flamenco. Seville is where you'll find everything you expect to see in Spain. 

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Granada, Cadiz, Jerez. There's also the high-speed AVE train to Madrid, via Cordoba.

    See also: How to Visit San Seville and Granada on One Short Break

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  • 05 of 19

    What's Malaga's Must-See Sight?

    Malaga Beach
    ••• Malaga Beach. Matt Biddulph/Creative Commons

    What Makes Malaga So Unique?  

    It's a beach city with good weather.

    Why?

    Despite stereotypes, Spain is not the all-year-round beach paradise that many think it is. Northern Spain can get very wet for half the year and Barcelona has several cold months.

    The south coast of Spain, on the other hand, is a lot closer to the idyllic image of year-round sunshine and warm weather. If you want a good chance of some nice weather in February or March, your best bet is to visit somewhere along the Costa del Sol. And if you're looking for a city with good nightlife, a variety of restaurants and a little culture, Malaga is your best bet. Read more about Eating and Drinking in Malaga

    No, I didn't pick a 'sight' for Malaga. It's not that kind of city. Don't expect a Madrid, a Barcelona or a Seville from Malaga. There are many, many better cities to visit in Spain for cultural attractions and the fact that so many tourists never get further than Malaga frustrated me so much that...MORE I put it at the top of my Worst Cities in Spain list. But if warm weather and a beach is all you're looking for, then Malaga is your best bet.

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    Honorable Mentions: There's a Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but it's not as good as the one in Madrid. There's a Picasso museum, but it's not as good as the one in Barcelona. Fried fish tapas bars are good, without the pretensions of Seville's or Barcelona's and at a much better price, but they're better along the coast in Cadiz.

    Nearby Cities on This List

    Granada is the nearest. There's also the high-speed AVE train to Cordoba and Madrid.

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  • 06 of 19

    What's Granada's Must-See Sight?

    Enjoying the Alhambra in Granada
    ••• Enjoying the Alhambra in Granada. Jesus Solana/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Granada? 

    Alhambra and free tapas!

    Why? 

    Sorry, but to put one without the other would have been a travesty!

    The Alhambra is a fantastic fortress and garden complex that every visitor to Granada has to visit. Tickets are limited, which can be a pain but at least in this way they are to control the crowds.

    After a morning at the Alhambra, don't forget to go for tapas. In Granada, the tapas comes for free! Buy a beer or glass of wine and get a small portion of paella or fried fish or whatever they're serving at the time. The best street for this is Calle Elvira, though this has got quite touristy, with bars doing their best to out-tapa each other in quantity if not quality. Explore off the beaten path for even more delights...

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: The Albaicin Moorish quarter, the Sacromonte gypsy quarter, the...MORE Sierra Nevada and Alpujarras mountains and the 'Moroccan teahouses'. Read more about Things to Do in Granada.

    Nearby Cities on This List

    Seville, Cordoba and Granada. 

    See also: How to Visit Seville and Granada on One Short Break

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  • 07 of 19

    What's Cordoba's Must-See Sight?

    Mezquita in Cordoba, Andalusia
    ••• Mezquita in Cordoba, Andalusia. Bert Kaufmann/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Cordoba?

    The Mezquita.

    Why? 

    Cordoba's Mezquita was once the biggest mosque in Europe. Today it is the city's cathedral, but it hasn't had a complete makeover so most of its original Arabic charm is still present. 

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    Honorable Mentions: The white-washed walls of the old town, reminiscent of a small pueblo blanco and hardly what you'd expect of a city. Be sure to look inside the courtyards of the houses where possible - during the month of May there is a competition for the best decorated patio.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Cordoba is on the high-speed AVE train line from Madrid to Seville. Granada and Malaga aren't too far either.

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  • 08 of 19

    What's San Sebastian's Must-See Sight?

    Basque country tapas - San Sebastian, Pais Vasco
    ••• Oliver Strewe / Getty Images

    What's the One Thing You Should See in San Sebastian?  

    Gourmet tapas

    Why? 

    San Sebastian turned tapas (or pintxos in the local Basque language) into high-art. Elements of molecular gastronomy find their way into classic Spanish and Basque dishes, all served in conveniently small portions that encourage bar hopping and adventurously trying dishes ​you you perhaps ordinarily wouldn't.  Wash it down with the local wine, Txakoli, which is a tart white wine, or with Rioja.

    Nervous about ordering in Spanish? Then you have two great options: a San Sebastian Pintxos and Wine Tour or the more independent San Sebastian Pintxos Passport.

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: Probably the best city beach in all of Spain.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Bilbao is an hour away by bus. If flying from the United States, Madrid is closer than Barcelona, despite the San...MORE Sebastian and Barcelona are both in the north of the country.  Read more on How to Plan a Spain Trip from Madrid.

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  • 09 of 19

    What's Bilbao's Must-See Sight?

    The Guggenheim in Bilbao
    ••• Dani_vr/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Bilbao? 

    Guggenheim museum

    Why? 

    You don't even need to go inside to appreciate Bilbao's Guggenheim: its Frank Gehry-designed exterior looks like a cruiseliner made by NASA has crash-landed in the city. But you should go inside: the Guggenheim is one of Spain's two best modern art museums (along with the Reina Sofia in Madrid). Plus, it has a great restaurant (reserve a table for their excellent lunch menu). 

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: Bilbao's Siete Calles (Seven Streets) old town area.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    San Sebastian is an hour away by bus.

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  • 10 of 19

    What's Valencia's Must-See Sight?

    Paella in Valencia
    ••• Paella in Valencia. Fotoblog Rare/Creative Commons

    What Makes Valencia So Unique?

    It's the birthplace of paella.

    Why? 

    Paella was invented in the rice fields of Valencia. Despite its international fame as a seafood dish, the original paella had meat instead of the typical mussels and calamari. There are lots of good paella restaurants in Valencia, but the best place to go is out to the Albufera area just outside town. 

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: The Las Fallas festival in March and the City of Arts and Sciences.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Cuenca is on the high-speed AVE train line to Madrid. There are also good transport connections to Barcelona. 

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  • 11 of 19

    What's Toledo's Must-See Sight?

    Panoramic view of Toledo, Spain
    ••• Fandrade / Getty Images

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Toledo?

    The walled old town.

    Why? 

    It wasn't easy to pick Toledo's 'must-see' sight. It has fantastic city walls (though Avila's are better), a fascinating heritage of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, some great museums and beautiful views of the area around the city. But ultimately, the best thing about Toledo is all of it. Wandering around the streets, popping into a museum if it takes your fancy, stopping in a bar for a beer, or merely admiring the architecture. So the whole city gets my vote. 

    More: 

    Honorable Mentions: The nearby wine regions are worth a visit too. There's even a guided tour that will take you to both Toledo and the wine region on the same day: Toledo and Local Wine Guided Tour

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Madrid is just half an hour away by train. 

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  • 12 of 19

    What's Segovia's Must-See Sight?

    Segovia aqueduct
    ••• Damian Corrigan

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Segovia? 

    The Roman aqueduct

    Why? 

    Segovia's Roman aqueduct is an impressive feat of engineering. It has stood for almost two thousand years and, even more remarkably, no mortar was used in its construction - the rocks are merely stacked together with only their weight keeping the structure together. 

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: The Alcazar. Some say it inspired Cinderella's castle in the Disney movie (more say the similar-looking German castles are a more likely inspiration).

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Segovia is close to Madrid and is often combined on a . Read more about day trips from Madrid

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  • 13 of 19

    What's Ronda's Must-See Sight?

    Ronda bridge over the Tajo ravine
    ••• Ronda bridge over the Tajo ravine. the very honest man/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Ronda? 

    Its historic bridges over the Tajo ravine.

    Why? 

    Ronda was one of the final Muslim strongholds during the reconquista, thanks to its defensive position straddling a steep ravine. The bridges that between the two parts of the city are Ronda's most famous sights.

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: The bullring was where bullfighting was invented!

    Nearby Cities on This List

    Granada and Seville are both quite close.

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  • 14 of 19

    What's Salamanca's Must-See Sight?

    Plaza Mayor in Salamanca
    ••• Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. Manuel M.V/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Salamanca? 

    Its majestic Plaza Mayor.

    Why? 

    Salamanca's main square is easily its most famous sight. Built out of locally-quarried yellow sandstone (in fact, most of the old town is), the walls are adorned with portraits of rulers from Spain's history. Look out for the picture of Franco - it's usually got paint thrown on it in protest!

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    Honorable Mentions: The cathedral (also made out of sandstone) has some intricate carvings on it. Look out for the ice cream and the astronaut, cheekily added during a recent restoration.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Salamanca is close to Madrid, but at more than two hours each way, it's best to visit overnight. 

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  • 15 of 19

    What's Santiago de Compostela's Must-See Sight?

    Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
    ••• Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Mario Sánchez Prada/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Santiago de Compostela?

    Its 12th century cathedral.

    Why?

    Santiago's cathedral is one of the oldest in Spain and is home to the relics of St James, for which thousands of pilgrims every year do the Camino de Santiago in order to see. 

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    Honorable Mentions: Santiago's old town is a cobblestoned marvel (it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

    Nearby Cities on This List

    A Coruña. See also How to Visit Santiago and A Coruña on One Short Break

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  • 16 of 19

    What's Jerez's Must-See Sight?

    Sherry tasting at Gonzalez Byass
    ••• Sherry tasting at Gonzalez Byass. Rafael Neville/Creative Commons

    What Makes Jerez So Unique? 

    Sherry.

    Why? 

    Sherry was invented in Jerez (it takes its name from the Arabic name for the city, Xeres) and all sherry is made either here in Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda or El Puerto de Santa María.

    What sets Jerez apart from most wine cities is that the bodegas are in the center of town, so there's no need to organize transport and designated drivers.

    More:

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Cadiz, Seville and Gibraltar are all nearby. See also How to Visit Jerez and Cadiz on One Short Break.

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  • 17 of 19

    What's Cadiz's Must-See Sight?

    Fried fish in Cadiz
    ••• Fried fish in Cadiz. Daphne Chui/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should Do in Cadiz? 

    The fried fish.

    Why? 

    The fish from the UK's ubiquitous 'fish and chips' was a Spanish invention, in particular from the Andalusian coast and Cadiz itself. The freiduria Las Flores in Cadiz is the best place to get fried fish, with more than a dozen varieties on offer.

    If you can't make it to Cadiz, another great place to get fried fish is at the Freiduria Puerta de la Carne in Seville.  

    More:

    Honorable Mentions: The old town's unique location on the end of a narrow peninsula gives it a wonderful microclimate all of its own.

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Jerez and Seville are both nearby (you can even visit both ).

    See also: How to Visit Jerez and Cadiz on One Short Break.

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  • 18 of 19

    What's Leon's Must-See Sight?

    Barrio Humedo in Leon
    ••• Barrio Humedo in Leon. Boca Dorada/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Leon? 

    The tapas bars of Barrio Húmedo.

    Why? 

    Leon is second only to Granada for serving tapas the way it was meant to be served: as a free accompaniment to your drink. The Barrio Húmedo ('damp quarter') is Leon's attractive old town area, the perfect backdrop for your bar-hopping tapas trail!

    More:

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    None of the cities are especially close, but Oviedo would you be your nearest option.

    See also: How to Visit Leon and Oviedo on One Short Break

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  • 19 of 19

    What's Burgos' Must-See Sight?

    Burgos Cathedral
    ••• Burgos Cathedral. Bren Buenaluz/Creative Commons

    What's the One Thing You Should See in Burgos? 

    The cathedral.

    Why?

    The 13-century Burgos cathedral is the only cathedral in Spain that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site entirely in its own right (several old towns make the list, partly because of their cathedral, and Seville cathedral makes the list as a joint entry with the Alcazar and Archivo de Indias). It's an imposing sight, far bigger than would seem appropriate for a city of this size. 

    More:

    Nearby Cities on This List 

    Burgos is just over an hour's drive from Logroño and between 90 minutes' and two hours' drive from both Bilbao and Leon.